Notes from our Preview Performance at SFMOMA!

On May 26 2011 we presented a 15-minute preview performance of Bring On The Lumière! at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as part of an event entitled Muybridge in Three Movements.  In conjunction with the exhibition Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change, the excerpt was performed alongside a collection of Muybridge-inspired short films chosen by San Francisco Cinematheque’s Steve Polta; and a Muybridge-driven conversation on cinematic space and time led by author Rebecca Solnit.  We were thrilled to be part of such an illustrious program, and especially psyched for the opportunity to try out an important scene for Bring On The Lumière! — a live recreation of the seminal Lumiere film Workers Leaving the Factory.  This scene had been on my mind for quite some time, from when we first sketched a version of it at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in July 2010.

Here are notes from Macklin Kowal, who assisted me with the preview performance as the Production Manager. Macklin did an amazing job organizing and directing the group. We also had amazing support from the SFMOMA staff, especially from dynamite Public Programs assistant Stella Lochman.  Warm thanks to curator Frank Smigiel for inviting us, and to Muybridge-scholar Rebecca Solnit for making it happen.

Philip Huang and Macklin Kowal

Macklin Kowal: I started working as the production manager for Bring on the Lumiere after Catherine and the cast had already committed a year of work to the project. Their research and rehearsals were evident in the first rehearsal I attended. Principal dancers Christine Bonansea and Marina Fukushima moved with seeming ease through complicated phrases of movement that were modeled after pedestrian movement and gesture as captured in the films of the Lumiere brothers. Furthermore, the two performers demonstrated a deep fraternal bond based in historical notions of the Lumiere brothers’ relationship.

Hilary Palanza leading

Some of her experiments for this project, though, have included large groups of performers animating the canon of the Lumiere brothers in live performance. For a performance at SFMOMA presented in conjuction with the museum’s Edweard Muybridge exhibit, she choreographed an intricate rendering of their Workers Leaving the Factory.

Kat directing

More than thirty people billowed across the stage in the  circular patterns through the museum, using the frame of SFMOMA’s loading dock doors to recreate the continuous exiting in the original film. As seemingly effortless as the performance appeared, it demanded a great deal of direction and patience on Catherine’s part, and she succeeded in maintaining the clarity of her vision while motivating the performers to find enjoyment in the work.

Kat’s diagram for the three circular pathways through the loading dock doors

Click here to view photos from the rehearsal at SFMOMA, by Mimi Cave


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